Dog Friendly Cars: What Features Make Them So?

These features will keep Fido feeling good on your next road trip.

Capital One | Aaron Miller

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Dogs and road trips go together like biscuits and belly rubs. When choosing the right ride for your canine compadre, it helps to know what features will help make the experience that much more comfortable and practical for both you and your pet. Here are our picks for the most important items to watch for when shopping for a dog-friendly car.

Easy to Clean — and Keep Clean

Owners of dogs that shed are intimately aware of the pervasiveness of animal hair, which seems to stick to almost every surface. Combine that hair with the dirt and grime that get tracked into a vehicle after a fun day at a muddy park, or a simple walk down a rainy street, and you have a real challenge keeping a vehicle’s interior clean.

Dog-friendly cars, trucks, and SUVs feature easy-to-clean floors and cargo areas, with either vinyl mats or vinyl coverings in place of carpeting, allowing for a quick hosing out (like the Jeep Wrangler) or wipe-down. Some vehicles even offer accessory mats with raised edges, or seat covers that do a good job of containing Fido's mess, alongside rugged fabric and vinyl upholstery that can be brushed free of hair and dirt.

Crate-Friendly Cargo Area

The cargo area of a wagon, hatchback, or SUV is where your dog will spend most of its time on the road. Not only does the cargo area need to be sized to accommodate a pet's crate (and include tie-down hooks to keep it from sliding around), but it also needs to have a relatively low load floor so that you don't have to lift up and over a high tailgate or hatch lip when transporting a canine companion. Throw in a hands-free liftgate so you can keep both hands on the crate, and you've got the full list of features to watch for.

A low, flat load floor is also a bonus if Rex likes to jump in directly. For larger dogs, the wide sliding side doors found on minivans are especially appealing for self-loaders. If you're looking at the used market, the Honda Element was even offered with a dog-friendly walk-up ramp suitable for older four-legged friends.

Latched Storage

Dogs love treats, which means you need a safe place to keep them that won't be burglarized mid-trip by a hungry canine. Vehicles that feature large, closed storage bins that can't be opened by a curious paw are key to keeping kibble secure until it's time to chow down.

Parking Lot Climate Control

It's never a good idea to leave a pet in a vehicle on a hot or cold day, unless it's a vehicle that keeps the climate-control system running even while the automobile itself is switched off. Tesla owners can take advantage of a “Dog Mode” which lets them cool, or heat, the cabin while their owners are away, and it displays a message to assure concerned passersby that the doggos inside are in no danger. Models like the Rivian R1T pickup and the R1S sport utility have followed along with their Pet Comfort system, which functions similarly to the Tesla system.

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Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting is a writer and podcast host who contributes to a number of newspapers, automotive magazines, and online publications. More than a decade into his career, he enjoys keeping the shiny side up during track days and always has one too many classic vehicle projects partially disassembled in his garage at any given time. Remember, if it's not leaking, it's probably empty.